In 2000, China Central Television (CCTV) launched CCTV International, its 24-hour English-language news service aimed for the global audience. CCTV’s international broadcasting has since expanded to cover news -from a Chinese perspective- in French, Spanish, Russian, and since 2009, Arabic.
On July 1, 2010, China launched another international English language news channel to expand its soft power. According to a July 2, 2010 article from The Guardian by Tania Branigan, Chinese authorities hope the launch of state news agency Xinhua‘s CNC World channel will help promote China’s image and perspectives. Similar to CCTV’s international objective, Xinhua’s president said CNC would “present an international vision with a China perspective.” Currently, CNC world is airing only in Hong Kong and after its scheduled launch of global satellite coverage this fall, it hopes to reach 50 million viewers across Europe, North America and Africa in its first year.
On July 13, US Congressmen Mac Thornberry (TX-13) and Adam Smith (D-WA), both members of the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, introduced “The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2010” (H.R. 5729), a bipartisan bill to revise an outdated restriction that interferes with the United States’ diplomatic and military efforts. The Smith-Mundt Act, formally known as the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, was intended to improve and institutionalize information and exchange activities to counter Communist activities around the world that America’s ambassador to Russia described in 1946 as a “war of ideology… a war unto death.” Today, however, the Smith-Mundt Act is invoked not to enable engagement but to limit it.
The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2010 by Reps. Thornberry and Smith seeks to update the so-called “firewall” of the Act to bring it up to date with the modern environment where people, ideas, and information move through porous or non-existent borders with increasing ease.
The impact of the current “firewall” is decreased accountability of what is said and done in the name of the taxpayer and with taxpayer’s money, reduced transparency and scrutiny in the conduct, purpose, and effectiveness of foreign policy, reduced awareness of global affairs, limited understanding of the State Department in general inhibiting the development of constituency.
One of MRi’s key offerings is a seminar Matt honchos about “Now Media,” his concept of understanding the existing and emerging media environment as it relates to influence and engagement. These seminars give us an opportunity to wrap up everything we learn into something useful for communication practitioners. At this particular event, we had attendees from the U.S. Marine Corps public affairs team, the State Department, and even a contingent of Indonesian bloggers visiting the States on a State Department exchange.
Once again, Walter Pincus of The Washington Post writes about military information activities. Once again, the esteemed Pincus exposes his lack of knowledge and ability to really investigate and qualitatively report on military information activities. Just as Pincus criticizes the military for expanding into areas it lacks expertise in, the same can be said about Pincus, an internationally influential reporter at a major media outlet.
On May 27, 2010, The National published an article about China’s engagement strategy, carried out by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), toward Arab television viewers in the Middle East and North Africa.
Many countries broadcast to the Middle East in Arabic, including France, Russia, and the U.S., but China is different: it broadcasts, from Beijing, to the region in Chinese with Arabic subtitles. Instead of focusing on news and current events in the Middle East, CCTV highlights Chinese culture and the arts. Simply, “…CCTV Arabic aims to tell the Arab world about China.“
Now a world power, China ambitiously aims to be part of the mainstream international media alongside CNN and BBC. This year, China will also reach milestones in its international broadcasting efforts as CCTV Arabic will mark its first anniversary in July and CCTV plans to open news bureaus in the Middle East later this year.
After crossing the line from self-purported “whistleblower” to propagandist with the release in April of a video packaged for “the targeted manipulation of public opinion,” Wikileaks is now hunting for US military email addresses in a May 7 tweet. Adrian Chen at Gawker wonders if this was preparation for the long anticipated release of another video Wikileaks may have of a bombing in Afghanistan. According to Chen, Julian Assange, Wikileak’s co-founder and public face, responded “not yet.”
The intent of Assange is to affect change. The “real diplomacy and real politics,” Assange said, “is something that is derived from the flow of information itself through the population.” Assange certainly tries to increase the flow of information and has primed his pipeline for his next package in the wake of “Collateral Murder,” the edited April video in which a US Army helicopter killed armed and unarmed men, including two employees of Reuters, and injuring two children. Claiming it received more than $150,000 in donations within days of releasing the video, Wikileaks reiterated its claim that it was actually doing journalism.
However, Wikileaks crossed the line from pushing for transparency or change with its selective packaging and willful disinformation regarding the content of the video in interviews (particularly on positive identification of the presence of weapons). Interviewing Assange, Stephen Colbert described the release as “emotional manipulation” and “not leaking” but “pure editorial.” Assange stated Wikileaks propagation is done in a way “to get maximum political impact.”
President Hugo Chavez has a long history of dominating the media environment in Venezuela, using radio and television to belittle his critics and project his political agenda to national and regional audiences. His administration has referred to the closures of privately held radio and television stations as efforts to “democratize” the media. Now facing the ultimate democratic media environment–an online space featuring millions of independent actors–he seems unsure how to compete.
In a April 13, 2010, NPR story about an unauthorized biography of Oprah Winfrey, NPR’s Karen Grigsby Bates reported at least one news outlet declined to interview (and thus implicitly promote) the book’s well-known and well-read author, Kitty Kelly, suggesting motives other than quality of the product:
Kelley did do a two-part interview with Matt Lauer on Monday and this morning on the "Today Show." But David Drake, spokesman for her publisher, Crown Books, a division of Random House, says rumors that other media outlets have declined interviews are true. Drake won’t name names but reportedly, ABC is one of them. ABC’s parent company, Disney, is partnering with Winfrey in several of the new shows she’ll present on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
NPR’s media correspondent David Folkenflik followed this with a quotable statement on the interconnectedness and potential lack of autonomy of media:
If they’re deciding the merits of a book’s newsworthiness on the basis of whether or not it might offend one of their corporate partners, it’s an abdication of the primacy of letting the news value dictate the news.
You are probably already familiar with the Wikileaks-edited video released April 5 of the 2007 airstrike in which a number of people were killed, including armed and unarmed men as well as two employees of the news agency Reuters. As of this writing, the initial instance of the edited version of the video titled "Collateral Murder" on YouTube is over 5 million views, not including reposts of the video by others using different YouTube accounts, and, according to The New York Times, "hundreds of times in television news reports." An unedited and not subtitled version upload by Wikileaks to YouTube, in contrast, has less 630,000, reflecting the lack of promotion of this version.
This video represents the advantages and disadvantages of social media in that highly influential content is easily propagated for global consumption. The persistency provided by the Internet means it will always be available and easily repurposed. Further, this situation highlights the ability to suppress unwanted information, both by the propagandist (omission of information) and by the supporter (removing an adversarial perspective). Lastly, the official response to this video shows the Defense Department still has a long way to go in understanding and operating in this new global information environment.
This video is, on its face and in depth, inflammatory and goes well beyond investigative journalism and creating transparency. It has launched debates about the legality of the attacks and questions of whether war crimes were committed. The video, as edited, titled, and subtitled is disturbing. It will continue to get substantial use in debates over Iraq, the US military, and US foreign policy in general.
Russia Today, the English language Russian government news agency, interviewed Julian Assange, Wikileaks editor and co-founder, on April 6, the day after the release. In a segment titled "Caught on Tape", the interviewer starts by describing the video as "gruesome, to say the least." Assange portrays Wikileaks as a Fourth Estate and says the military was "scared of the information coming out," which Reuters had been requesting through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for over two years, "for fear of the reform effect." Originally broadcast, the RT interview is also on YouTube has, as of this writing, with nearly 40,000 views. In the first day of release it had over 10k views and was on YouTube’s front page.
One of the few, if perhaps the only, serious attempt to respond to "Collateral Murder" is another YouTube video titled "Wiki Deception: Iraq ‘Collateral Murder’ Rebuttal":
This video, shown above, adds scenes left out of Collateral Murder but in the longer, and less promoted and thus less viewed, complete video. This "rebuttal" annotates and highlights pertinent details left out of or ignored in Collateral Murder that could have been done April 5 (or even before).
UPDATE: The "rebuttal" video was removed from YouTube for "violation of the YouTube Community Guidelines." The cause of action: "graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed in YouTube videos." The "rejection notice" at right was sent by someone close to the "rebuttal". Neither Collateral Murder nor the unedited video have been removed from YouTube. It appears the "rebuttal" video is a clear victim of manipulation by supporters of Collateral Murder or its cause. The method was social media’s "democratic" ability to suppress or silence opposing viewpoints by flagging content as inappropriate, a feature in YouTube that is often used by insurgent and terrorist propagandists. Conversely, content can be promoted and rise to the top of search results with a "thumbs up." Jillian York has documented the same silencing technique on Facebook.
This week, NPR broadcast an interesting story on The Villages, a burgeoning retirement community in Florida. What made it interesting was the developer of the project “owns just about everything.” This includes the local media. As NPR’s Robert Siegel explained:
The local radio station, which of course plays oldies, its also piped by loudspeaker to the two downtowns – is owned by the developer. So is The Villages’ Daily Sun, a full-sized newspaper with multiple sections. It has a local reporting staff and runs AP stories about the rest of the world.
The peril of a lack of competition in news media came out in an interview Siegel had with Joe Gorman, the president of the property owners association in The Villages, a natural adversary to the developer.
SIEGEL: Joe Gorman says that after his group raised that issue, over a thousand homes were eventually repaired. He says the vinyl siding story escaped the notice of the local paper and the radio station completely, as does his organizations work in general.
Siegel also interviewed Andrew Blechman, the author of Leisureville, a book about The Villages. Blechman describes The Villages as a benevolent totalitarian government:
Everything is owned by the developer. The government is owned by the developer. Everything’s privatized and they’re happy with that. You know, they traded in the ballot box for the corporate suggestion box.
Why is this interesting? Because it demonstrates the American fear of propaganda by Big Brother. The developer is an effective propagandist in this situation not because certain stories are broadcast and others are not, but because there is a lack of competition, which would result in both accountability and a broader spectrum of news. This also creates the environment of Big Brother: the media and the ‘government’ are one and the same and support each other.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) strongly believes the Government of Iran has tapped its phones, intercepting email, and surveilling its activities. RFE/RL, a US government broadcaster, cites recent attempts to recruit 8 Iranian journalists inside Iran. Six of the journalists were detained before they could exit the country while the other two had their passports confiscated.
According to a senior official at RFE/RL, the Iranian government’s policy towards journalists is to “arrest some, execute some, release some.” Fortunately, those journalists RFE/RL was engaging are just in the first category.
The American approach to public service broadcasting, which is severely underfunded when compared to the rest of the world, is also legally separated from U.S. international broadcasting, a firewall that inhibits effective collaboration between either. Indeed, the problem is worse, as U.S.-funded international broadcasting is prohibited from disseminating its journalistic features within the U.S., a ban that prevents effective use of its significant journalistic resources by both public and private news networks in the United States. including a large sector of ethnic media that could surely benefit from the 60 languages that American international broadcasting reports in. For comparison, the BBC, the world’s most respected news institution, houses all of its international and domestic news services in the same newsroom, therefore maximizing the benefits of a diverse and large staff while limiting costly redundancies. This paper argues for further collaboration between government funded international broadcasting and its domestic counterparts — both public and private — and thus for policies that match the reality of today’s information ecology.
Shawn’s paper is a welcome contribution to the need to break down the firewall of the revised Smith-Mundt Act. The original purpose of the institutionalization of US international broadcasting in 1945 (the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 was first introduced in October 1945) was to fill a gap in reaching non-US audiences that US media could not. Testifying before a House Appropriations Committee in 1946, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs stated the purpose of US government broadcasting:
Our number one policy is to encourage private agencies to do the job. We propose only to fill in the gaps where, and when private agencies cannot do the job.
Today, in a twist on the question about a tree in the forest, if America’s media does not cover an event, does it really happen? The retreat of US domestic media from overseas is troublesome for America’s global affairs. America’s media focus on speed over accuracy and a short-attention span prevents not only informing the American public, but of legislators, policy makers, and even the media itself.
Shawn’s paper should be required reading by Congress and the State Department.
One minor comment on the paper: Shawn implies the language “for examination only” in Section 501 of the Act / Section 1461 of US Code was in the original legislation. It was, in fact, inserted by Senator Fulbright.
Beginning in 1937, the failure of the Executive Branch to reach a decision regarding the establishment of a governmental radio station led to a shift in initiative from the Department of State to Congress. Gregory calls it “a change that was marked by the introduction in both the House and the Senate of several bills.” Their sponsors, in particular Congressman Emmanuel Celler (D- NY), argued that every other nation was prepared to see that the world understands its point of view – yet the U. S. was at the mercy of the propaganda of other countries without the ability to present its own position. The year was 1937 and German-Nazi and Italian-Fascist propaganda were in full swing.
The Congressional sponsors of a government short wave station found themselves fiercely opposed by the private broadcasters of this country. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) passed a resolution in June 1937 opposing any governmental international radio station. Within the Executive Branch there was no unanimity and the President was not willing to support the establishment of a government radio station. The plan died in early 1940.
A terrific graphic and an interesting one to be used by a government broadcaster. Tell me again why I can watch RussiaToday (RT.com) on cable (occasionally I do), CCTV (Chinese government broadcasting), and possibly PressTV (Iranian) but it is illegal for VOA to be available within the United States?
In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, The Soft Power Solution in Iran, former Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Jim Glassman and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy Mike Doran promotes the active use of public diplomacy for the purpose public diplomacy was intended. Beginning with this unattributed quote from presidential candidate Eisenhower (likely inserted by Mike, who’s working on a book on the period), they wrote,
Everything that we do, everything that we say–and everything that we don’t do and don’t say–should be coordinated to meet this goal. Such a policy would have four separate tasks:
• Provide moral and educational support for the Green Revolution. …
• Tighten sanctions on the Iranian economy and publicize the connection between regime belligerence and economic malaise. …
• Do all we can to increase communications within Iran, as well as between Iran and the outside world. …
• Finally, we should refute, in campaign style, the four key propositions of Iranian propaganda. …
A serious strategic communications program for Iran could have dozens, even hundreds, of programs like these. It should extend across government agencies with clear leadership and include private-sector participation.
Too often in foreign policy our interests demand that we compromise our core values. With Iran, however, we have been blessed with remarkable luck: Our strategic and moral imperatives stand in perfect alignment. And Iranians like Americans.
The Iranian challenge appears more amenable than any other serious national threat to a soft-power solution. Let’s get going.
Indeed. We know Congress is eager for action – for example the $55 million authorized, but not appropriated, by the Armed Services Committees under the VOICE Act. This does include $30 million for BBG, but Increasing resources at VOA – along with increasingly creative access for Iranians within Iran – is not enough.
(Iran’s PressTV cites a New Yorks Timesarticle about Senators asking State to spend $45 million that was “earmarked” for countering Iranian censorship, but I have not confirmed whether this is the same VOICE authorization or an earlier authorization or appropriation.)
Today, January 21, 2009, at 4:40p ET (time change) I’ll be on Stand Up! with Pete Dominick to talk about State of State, reforming the Department of State into the Department of Non-State.
Stand Up! with Pete Dominick is a political talk show broadcast on the POTUS satellite radio channel – Sirius 110 / XM 130. It airs weekdays from 3pm to 6pm Eastern, with replays at 9pm and 3am Eastern. Both networks simultaneously stream the show online, as well.
Due to the Supreme Court decision that came out today, my interview time has slid slightly to 4:40p ET. If you don’t get XM (and I don’t), you can sign up for a free 3-day trial here.
A recently released and unreported report from West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center has some fuel for the struggle of minds and wills. Deadly Vanguards: A Study of al-Qa’ida’s Violence Against Muslims (PDF, 875kb) is a survey of attacks carried out by Al Qaeda that should be part of a counter-narrative to Al Qaeda’s broadly accepted proposal that they are the champions of Muslims. For too long we have accepted the propaganda of the enemy, allowing him to set the time, place, and vocabulary, all to his advantage. He declared the war was between us and them and we agreed. It wasn’t and it isn’t.
From the report:
The results show that non‐Westerners are much more likely to be killed in an al‐Qa’ida attack. From 2004 to 2008, only 15% percent of the 3,010 victims were Western. During the most recent period studied the numbers skew even further. From 2006 to 2008, only 2% (12 of 661 victims) are from the West, and the remaining 98% are inhabitants of countries with Muslim majorities. During this period, a person of non‐Western origin was 54 times more likely to die in an al‐Qa’ida attack than an individual from the West. The overwhelming majority of al‐Qa’ida victims are Muslims living in Muslim countries, and many are citizens of Iraq, which suffered more al‐Qa’ida attacks than any other country courtesy of the al‐Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) affiliate.
It is interesting to note that the percentage of non‐Western victims increased in the more recent period at the same time that extremist scholars, pundits, and supporters are questioning the indiscriminate use of violence and the targeting of Muslims. Al‐Qa’ida leaders stress that these individuals are not formal members of the organization, but recognizes their legitimacy as scholars and intellectual contributions to the movement nonetheless.
A funny thing happened to some facts on their way to the newspaper this week. Last week, on November 23, I blogged on the slate of nominees for the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The night of the 24th I updated post with additional information for Michael Meehan to highlight that he was previously nominated by President Bush to the Board so that it read “…(previously nominated to the Board by President George W. Bush and a business partner of the husband of Judith McHale’s Chief of Staff ).”
A week later on November 30, Al Kamen of The Washington Post’s “In the Loop” graciously mentioned me as pointing out Meehan has a connection to the office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, but did not mention the previous nomination.
Then today, the December 2 edition of “In the Loop” noted what my blog said for the prior week, that Meehan was first nominated by Bush. Where was the clarification that my post had that important data point Kamen’s researcher ignored?
For all the congratulatory email I received for the “In the Loop” mention, there was no noticeable change in the number of visitors to the blog – although digging deeper I found there were an unusual number of visitors from The Washington Post domain – so if I hadn’t known I was mentioned, I wouldn’t have known I was in one of the – if not the – most read gossip columns. Either not many cared about the Meehan-DiMartino connection or not many of Kamen’s readers follow the links he provides to read the source. There’s also the possibility that Kamen’s readers who care about public diplomacy already read this blog and knew the week before about the connection and the previously nomination.
The initial spin on the story was not surprising, the spin in today’s correction was. I’m implicitly portrayed as the one who did not write on Meehan’s previous nomination. Ah, the media.
The Standard Industrial Classification, or SIC, is a 72-year old system of classifying industries in the US. It was replaced twelve years ago by the NAICS, or North American Industry Classification System. Under the SIC system, newspapers are listed as under Manufacturing, SIC 2711. On its face this seems an anachronism but the explanation makes sense: